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Erik Karlsson returns to Ottawa

by Chris Lund / Ottawa Senators

Sens defenceman Erik Karlsson met with the media on Monday for the first time since returning to Ottawa to continue preparations for the start of the 2014-15 season. He answered a wide range of questions on his summer, his health, his expectations and more.

Here's what he had to say...

On when he got back into town:

Last week, I haven't been back more than a week but it's nice.

On his plans to start skating:

This week, unfortunately I didn't get on today but I'm pretty sure tomorrow will be my first time.

On his summer:

It was a great summer. Unfortunately it was a little bit too long but it has been nice. I stayed in Ottawa for quite some time after. I really only spent two months in Sweden but the weather was unbelievable this year again and I got a lot of things done, things that needed to be done like see my family and friends and sort a few things out. I did some traveling as well which was nice to be able to do. I'm excited to be back.

On Spezza's departure:

Obviously he has been here as long as I've been here, he was a big part of the team and we've become really close friends and spent a lot of time together. From a friend point of view it's sad to see him go and I wish him all the best. It's part of the business unfortunately, he's been here a long time and felt that he needed to move on and I think that's pretty much the only thing that happened. It's one of those things you learn to deal with as a professional athlete.

On if he's concerned about the team's offence:

No, obviously losing him is tough — he's a quality player in the League and he has been for a long time and you can't replace it right away. It's going to be a change but at the same time I think the group we have is developing. Even though we had a bad year last year I think we're going to be a better team this year with or without him. Everyone is going to be motivated coming back and someone is going to have to step up. It's part of the business as well. You have to give new guys an opportunity to shine and hopefully someone will take it.

On potential future captains:

I think whoever gets that is going to do a great job and whether it's me or someone else I think it's a tight group and everyone on our team has really shown that they want to take responsibility. Obviously I'm a big part of that group and I want to be and, to me, whoever gets that opportunity, it's going to be well-deserved and it's going to be one that's right for the team and right for the player.

On if he would like to be the captain:

It's a tough question. It's something I wouldn't say no to but it's not something I'm going to ask for. I think whoever makes the decision is going to make the right one and whether it's me or someone else it's going to be good for the team and good for the organization.

On what makes a good captain:

It's different, everybody is different. Spezz was a different captain than Alfie and I think they both were great. Whoever gets to become the captain is going to do it their own way and it's going to be different from the previous ones. We have so many candidates it doesn't really matter who it is. I'm different from Chris Phillips and Chris Neil and Marc Methot — we're all different players and personalities and we all lead in different ways. I don't think there's one thing that can really determine how a captain is going to be or should be.

On if he's ready to be a primary leader for the team:

We're a big group that does it together and obviously I'm part of it and I know it. It's something I've learned to deal with over the years. It's something that is exciting and motivating and I'm happy with where I am in my career right now and where it's going. With this team and this organization, I'm happy to be here, I want to be here for a long time. Whatever happens with that part is not up to me. We're just going to have to wait and see.

On his health:

I feel great. I think this summer has been really good for me. It's sad to say but a long summer probably did me good for my own interests. I've made a lot of progress from last year and I feel way better now than I did at this point last year. I feel that everything is starting to connect more and I'm able to do things this summer that I wasn't able to do last year. I'm going to keep working on it and hopefully by the time the season starts I'm going to be miles ahead of where I was last year. As I said, the long summer really, really did me good.

On if he has skated since the end of the season:

No, I haven't. I've actually been staying away on purpose just to try and figure out my current injury situation and working off the ice as much as I can with my body to try and get that in shape and feeling good off the ice. We're going to have so much time skating and skate so much during the year that I think I'll have enough of it. It's going to be interesting tomorrow when I put the skates on to see how it feels. I definitely don't think it will feel any worse than it did last year.

On where he expects his game to grow:

Last year was a tough year for everybody, my game included. I didn't feel good about it and I didn't think I did a lot of good things. I'm excited about this year going in and improving as a player and trying to build from where I was before I got hurt and improve in every way. I'm extremely excited about my own game and the team's game and where it's going to take us. Right now I feel fresh and like I'm in a place in my life on and off the ice where I'm happy about myself. I'm excited moving forward. There's a lot of small things that I know I need to take care of on the ice to be a better hockey player. I think I'm up to date with what I need to do.

On if the criticisms of his defensive game last season were unfair:

No, I don't think so. As I said, I wasn't really happy with my game last year. Overall there were some good parts and bad parts and some parts that need some cleaning up. I think with my game and the team as well, the defensive game was not a strong suit. It really showed and it's something that I'm well aware of and everybody else as well. It's something we, myself included, need to clean up to be a better team.

On if there needs to be less of an offensive focus to improve the defence:

Both yes and no, I think it's small things. I don't think that should affect any other part of the game and I'm still going to be the same player I was before, it's just those small things and consistency especially — being able to play both ends of the ice at all times — I've got to take more pride in both.

On growth out of last year's struggles:

Everything bad comes with some good, right? That's normally what they say. I've learned a lot of things from last year and there's a lot of things you don't want to go through again. Some things that take some time to pick up with what you need to do better but I think last year is, in the long run, going to do us good. As I said I've been really excited this summer coming back and that's why I'm back so early this year is to try and be around here more. This is where I want to be and everyone I've talked to is really excited about coming back, especially from last year where I don't think anyone had that much fun.

On if the departures of Heatley, Alfredsson and Spezza should be a concern:

Absolutely not. As I said, it's a business and that's what we've got to take it for. I think if you talked to any of those guys I think any of them would say they were extremely happy being here and playing here and it's not something I'm worried about at all. I know I couldn't be more happy anywhere else. This is my home now, I've started to spend a lot more time here, I like the city and everything about it, the organization, the fans, how it has worked and how it's run. For me it's not a problem at all if guys are leaving. It's top names and good players but it happens on every team and I don't think it changes anything around here whatsoever.

On if the spotlight gets to be too much in Ottawa:

No, I don't think so. I don't think that was one of the reasons either. That's how it is playing on a Canadian team and you've got to take it with its ups and downs. It's a great feeling playing for a city where everybody cares so much. It's going to be hard sometimes and people are going to analyze you for whatever you do but at the same time you have to remember you guys actually write pretty good stuff about us sometimes. It's not that bad. It is what it is, it's part of playing here. It's good and it's bad. I don't always like it, I don't always love it, but for the most part I do. It comes with the territory and it's one of those things you've got to get accustomed to and deal with. I don't take anything personally anyways.

On if the Sens can be better than last season:

I definitely think we are, especially from last year. I think everyone is extremely motivated coming in here. We've got a lot of things going on and a lot of changes. I feel that with the young group we have a lot of guys that took a step last year and some of the players that didn't have a good year — I think everybody is expecting themselves to be better. That's going to be a good thing for us. We've been a good team in the past, we know that and we've just got to find our way back somehow to having that joy in our game and playing the way we're supposed to play. Last year we kind of fell off track a bit and for me it's normal to do that. Unfortunately we couldn't repair it in time and I still think we're going to be a way better team this year than we were last year and the years before that.

On if he's gotten an ALS Ice Bucket challenge yet:

I've been nominated way too many times. I'm going to do it for sure, I was sick last week and laid in bed for a few days and then went to a wedding this weekend. Maybe tomorrow. I heard Eugene (Melnyk) is in town so maybe I'll challenge him.

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